Special Report

Cities Where You Don't Want to Get Sick

10. Visalia-Porterville, CA
> Readmission rate: 15.6%
> Avg. 30 day mortality rate: 15.1%
> Hospital safety score grade: C
> Preventable hospitalizations: 51.9 per 1,000 patients

Based on the three major hospitals that serve the Visalia metro area the region ranks as the 10th worst in the nation in quality of care. However, as is generally the case, the quality of each facility varies considerably. While Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia received an A from Leapfrog, Tulare Regional Medical Center in Tulare received an F. Unlike other metros with relatively low-rated hospitals, mortality rates among area patients admitted for heart attacks and coronary artery bypass surgery are well below the nationwide average rates — at 12.9% and 2.4%, respectively. For stroke and pneumonia patients, on the other hand, the likelihood of dying after hospitalization is considerably greater than it is in most metro areas.

Socioeconomic conditions likely contribute to the area’s poor hospital ratings. At 28.6%, the Visalia area’s poverty rate is the fifth highest rate of all U.S. metro areas. Individuals living in poverty are at greater risk of certain health conditions.

9. Yakima, WA
> Readmission rate: 15.4%
> Avg. 30 day mortality rate: 14.8%
> Hospital safety score grade: C
> Preventable hospitalizations: 47.6 per 1,000 patients

High rates of preventable hospitalizations, which are usually more common in areas with low health insurance coverage and poor preventative care, strain hospital resources. Despite the relatively high uninsured rate in Yakima, at 16%, the area’s preventable hospitalizations rate of 47.6 per 1,000 patients is below the national figure. Mortality rates, however, for patients admitted to area hospitals for heart conditions and procedures such as stroke and coronary artery bypass surgery are well above the corresponding nationwide rates. The 18.2% of pneumonia patients and 10.1% of whooping cough patients who die within 30 days after hospitalization are also well above the corresponding national rates.

Like a number of other cities on this list, Yakima residents are some of the poorest in the nation. The metro’s poverty rate of 20.3% is considerably higher than the national rate of 15.6%.

8. Albany, GA
> Readmission rate: 16.4%
> Avg. 30 day mortality rate: 14.8%
> Hospital safety score grade: C
> Preventable hospitalizations: 61.4 per 1,000 patients

Of the two hospitals in the Albany area, Leapfrog graded only the two Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The hospital system received a C in the most recent assessment. The relatively poor grade accompanies relatively high readmission and mortality rates across the area’s hospitals, making Albany among the worst cities in which to visit a hospital.

For every 1,000 hospitalizations in the area, 61.4 are unnecessary, well above the national average rate of 54.0 preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 patients. The high rate is likely due in part to poor primary care as well as low health insurance coverage. Nearly 18% of Albany area residents do not have health insurance, considerably higher than the national rate of 11.7%.

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